For the first time in a decade, the Louisiana Legislature will take up an across-the-board pay raise for teachers and support staff in Louisiana’s public schools.
"Everybody agrees it’s probably time to give public school teachers a raise. $1,000 is the number Gov. John Bel Edwards is promoting; most people think that’s gonna happen," says Pearson Cross, Associate Professor of political science at University of Louisiana Lafayette. It may be one of the few issues that picks up broad bipartisan support in the session that begins April 8.
Average teacher pay in Louisiana is about $49,000.
Debbie Meaux is the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, a teachers union that represents about a third of the state’s public school employees.
“We want all of our educators to be at or above the southern regional average and then maintain that position,” she explains.
It’d take a pay raise of over $2,000 to get Louisiana teachers to that southern average. A $1,000 pay raise this year won’t do that, but Meaux says it’s a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Texas are debating a teacher pay raise as high as $5,000 and the Mississippi legislature recently approved a $1,500 increase.
Disagreement over how to spend state dollars in the next budget continues between Republican leaders in the House and Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Each has presented their own budget for lawmakers to debate next session. Both include dollars for a $1,000 teacher pay raise and $500 raise for support staff.
If Meaux has any concern, it’s be about where in the budget the pay raise is placed. Right now, it’s included in the minimum foundation program - or MFP - a formula used to fund school districts across the state. If it’s moved anywhere else, the pay raise would only be good for one year.
“If it’s in the MFP it’s permanent. If it’s not, it’s something we have to pretty much fight for again next year,” Meaux explains.
Representative Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), head of the House Appropriations committee which handles the budget, says he has no interest in moving the pay raise outside of the MFP, where teachers unions want it.